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Is it all coming from my L5/S1 bulged disc?


I've been in pain for several months now...

Everything started in October 2016, when I did a wrong movement (almost nothing by the way) and I felt a strong pain in the left side of the lower back. What we call the typical lumbago. ..

I'm 50 but was walking like an 90 years old person. But it was really like a mechanical pain, not radiating into the leg. Only the lower back. But with ibuprofen, heat pad and some rest, it went better by itself after 2 weeks. I was even able to work on my deck (being careful not to bend forward though)

But in February, pain started to come back. Pain in the left buttock . I had an X-Ray of the lumbar area that didn't show anything specific. I was able to contain the pain with Diclofenac 100mg extended released

But it went worse: difficult to walk especially in the morning, VERY painful to get into my car (put the right leg to get half seated was OK, but lifting the left one into the car was very painful)

So I had an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon, who said it didn't think it was a pinched nerve but a very tight hamstring, so I should do PT. But at the 1st session, the therapist talked about bulged disc !!!!

After 4 or 5 sessions where I couldn't see any improvement, i insisted to have an MRI, that finally showed a bulged disc at L5-S1 on the left side. So the doctor told me my pain was coming from here, and I should keep doing PT. But same thing, after few more sessions, it didn't get better, thus he prescribed epidural injections. I did 2 actually, 2 weeks apart .  The 1st one showed great relief after 2 days, but not for long (maybe the PT session ruined the benefits, this is when I decided to put PT on hold for now). The 2nd one was so-so (didn't see the same level of pain relief)

I saw the doc who did the 2 injections 2 days ago: he looked at me, did some exams and said it's not coming from my hip, and my pain is typical of a pinched nerve (laying down, raising my left leg generated pain in my buttock)

He said my options are now back to PT, another epidural he could do another way, or see the surgeon to talk about surgery. He said I should also stop anti-inflammatory for now, and try Tramadol instead

Here are my symptoms: i sleep relatively well, but it's stiff/painful in the  upper buttock area when I wake up. When I sit for breakfast, i feel it helps. When I go out to walk the dog in the morning, it's painful in the buttock and down the leg (calf). But during the day, when I move around, looks like it's getting better. Sometimes, it's like I have nothing at all. However, as soon as I sit (especially in my car), even for 5 minutes, the first few steps when I stand up are painful...

Since I stopped the Diclofenac but didn't wan't to take Tramadol, I thought the pain would be very bad without any meds after 1 day.....But surprisingly, it was not worse than usual

So now i don't know what to do: I don't trust PT to help fix the problem, and it I could try a 3rd injection (but I've heard it's not always safe) or see the surgeon to talk micro-discectomy......

But my big question is: Are all my symptoms coming from that disc: could it be something else? I wouldn't want to go thru surgery (which I want to avoid) to realize it was not that actually !!!



  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 6,480

    hi french_guy!

    welcome to spine-health.

    have you thought about getting another opinion? i know you've had a few but they are all different. maybe seeing the surgeon would be a good idea not just for surgery but for him to give you an answer. also, is this causing more damage than good, especially if it is nerve related.
    we are not allowed to and can not give medical advice as to what we think it is.

    while you are waiting on other members to reply, please click on the welcome link below as well as the system tutorial for more information.

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    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator
    Please read my  Medical Story  
  • Hi French guy,

    Firstly let I must let you know we cannot help with medical diagnosis on this site only give opinions based upon our experiences.  I have a severe bulge of the L5S1 disc.  And yes those symptoms are exactly consistent with mine (only mine is really severe and gets both sides and back). I would definitely recommend seeing the surgeon.  Not all surgical interventions are radical.  If you got relief from epidural injections it may be possible to get a RF Abalation where they basically burn back the disc a little.  Its day surgery stuff and helps a lot.  There is also RF Neurotomy where they kill the nerves. I had one of those done in 2002 and it worked really well (had 15 years of almost no pain at all).  There are many options and they all depend on the extent of the bulge and how much it impinges the nerves.  It sounds like yours is mild so might just need a little intervention but this is a decision for a specialist doctor.  

    I will recommend you research your specialist and choose a good one. You could use a neurosurgeon as well.

    Hope this helps,


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  • Hello 

    Thanks for your answer....

    Yes, I know you can't make diagnosis. I'm looking for similar experiences

    Here is how were the last 2 days without any meds:

    Waking up is always painful, the upper buttock is very stiff....It makes me limp. But I actually don't really have pain in the lower back itself

    But during the day, it slowly goes better, to the point that sometimes, I feel almost nothing. The pain seems to come back after I stand up from the sitting position, and the few next steps are painful again. Actually, I feel I need to walk to feel better

    Slowly stretching my leg on a stool/chair seems very helpful ...but I notice for the 1st stretch, my leg is EXTREMELY stiff. It takes a while before I can have it straight

    The 1st doc I saw was an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in hip treatment (very good reputation apparently), When the MRI showed a bulged disc, he said the last resort option would be a "small surgery", but done by another doctor. Actually, the doctor who did my 2 injections told me he had himself a surgery by this other doctor, and he highly recommend him

    So yes, I think my next option is to see that doctor, who is an orthopedic doctor who specialize in spine cases 

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